FAR 121.533 states that both the airline captain and the dispatcher are held jointly responsible for the safety of the flight. In cooperation with the pilot, the flight dispatcher furnishes a flight plan that enables the aircraft to arrive at its destination on schedule with the maximum payload and the least operating cost. The flight dispatcher considers en route and destination weather, winds aloft, alternate destinations, fuel required, altitudes, and traffic flow. The dispatcher's signature, along with that of the pilot, releases the aircraft for flight. The dispatcher maintains a constant watch on all flights dispatched, and is responsible in joint agreement with the airline captain for flight planning, route and altitude selection, fuel load requirements, aircraft legality and complyig with FAA regulations. The dispatcher is the go-between for the pilot and ground service personnel, and keeps all personnel concerned with the flight informed about its status. The dispatcher must be familiar with navigation facilities over airline routes and at airports as well as with the takeoff, cruising, and landing characteristics of all aircraft operated by the airline. The flight dispatcher also must ride periodically in the cockpit with the flight crew to observe flight routes, conditions, and airports.
The dispatcher shares 50/50 decision making and responsibility for the safety of each flight with the airline captain. Flight dispatchers work indoors at the airport in the airline operations office or control center. They use computers, calculators, weather charts and information, and loading re-ports. A 40-hour week with shift work is normal.
Flight dispatchers frequently work under pressure in a fast-paced environment especially when flying weather is bad. They must make many rapid decisions concerning safety, flight regulations, and the economy of operations. These employees are surrounded by people, teletype machines, telephones, and intercom systems in a noisy, busy atmosphere. Those who work for a small airline, carry on the duties of a meteorologist and schedule coordinator.
Federal Aviation Regulations part 121 dictates that airline dispatchers must ride in the cockpit jumpseat on "familiarization flights" for a minimum of 5 hours each calender year. However, most airlines treat dispatchers like pilot cockpit crewmembers, and extend them this excellent priviledge on an unlimited basis. Also, hundreds of other airlines around the world recognize the significance of the airline dispatcher, and extend the cockpit jumpseat authority freely to them. This is one of the greatest benifits available for dispatchers.
Flight dispatchers must be able to work rotating shifts including days, nights, weekends and holidays.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required. Though a college degree with a major in air transportation or meteorology is useful preparation for work as a flight dispatcher, experience is equally important